No Gony, no problem as young pacers bowl out Rajasthan

Punjab can't seem to put a foot wrong. For the fourth time at home, their skipper won the toss and, without blinking, decided to bowl against Rajasthan amid nippy conditions that suit the pacers. And like those previous games, Mandeep Singh's bowlers responded again.

The trio of Baltej Singh ó coming in place of an injured Manpreet Gony óSandeep Sharma and Siddharth Kaul picked nine wickets among themselves as the visitors were bundled out for 222 in their first innings. But making it a less than perfect day for the hosts, Rajasthan too got a wicket, that of the prolific youngster Jiwanjot Singh as Punjab ended at 20 for one on Day One.

The morning conditions were conducive for swing bowling and Baltej struck in the very first over, removing Vineet Saxena. The promising Sandeep then saw off Vaibhav Deshpande to leave Rajasthan reeling at eight for 2.

The two-time defending champions dug in, however, and staged a brief recovery, thanks to a 70-run stand between opener Dishank Yagnik and Puneet Yadav. The duo played their shots as Punjab kept an attacking field. They saw off the new ball without further hiccups, but just when the partnership began to look threatening, Siddarth picked up his first getting rid of Yagnik.

Yadav, meanwhile, got his half-century and with Ashok Menaria took the score to 113. But Baltej struck again, inducing an edge off a well-set Yadav, who made 57 off 74 balls with 11 fours. Menaria couldn't convert the start and was trapped in front by Sandeep for a 62-ball 32. Rajesh Bishnoi (23) and Deepak Chahar (35) added some respectability to Rajasthan's total, taking it past 200.

Rajasthan clearly missed their injured captain Hrishikesh Kanitkar and batsman Robin Bist, who is down with fever. However, the visitors gave a glimpse of the fight that awaits Punjab when Pankaj Singh trapped Jiwanjot in front of the wicket in the fifth over. The first session tomorrow can be decisive as morning conditions will give the Rajastan pacers a chance.

... contd.

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